EXCLUSIVE: Big Wheel Film & TV, the producer behind controversial Sky History series The Chop, has been restructured after running out of funds due to Covid-related challenges and the withdrawal of investment.
The UK outfit, founded by former Sky commissioner James Quinn, entered administration following advice taken and has been sold to a separate production company run by Quinn under a so-called “pre-pack” deal, with all creditors paid in full bar one.
The arrangement allows for a quick sale of a troubled company’s business or assets, meaning Big Wheel was able to continue trading, according to a spokesman.
Big Wheel will sit as a label within Up & Away Film Entertainment, which has a development deal with BBC Studios. Up & Away described the move as a “restructure that has brought both companies under one roof.”
Big Wheel appointed administrators in September, according to Companies House documents. Quantuma Advisory, the administrator, said in a report delivered to creditors in November that the “onset of Covid, withdrawal of investment and development deal offers and a cessation of the commissioning of projects” led to Big Wheel experiencing financial difficulty.
The report added that “despite the directors’ best efforts and following a review of financial circumstances it was clear that the company was struggling to pay its liabilities as they fell due”.
Big Wheel’s assets were valued at just £1 ($1.2), while the company had only £9,907 ($12,151) in the bank, according to the report.
The report made clear that the pandemic was a significant factor in Big Wheel’s troubles, stating that the company had been “thriving and was about to sign a contract which would have brought further significant funds into the business.” It won more than 20 hours worth of programing within its first year of trading, was about to secure development funds from both Channel 4 and the BBC and, by February 2020, had agreed an investment of £250,000 ($307,000) and the renewal of another contract which would have brought £450,000 ($550,000) into the business.
Big Wheel is the company behind The Chop: Britain’s Top Woodworker, a Sky History competition series that was supposed to land with fanfare but instead became mired in controversy two years ago when a contestant, Darren Lumsden, was discovered to have several tattoos with White Supremacy connections.
One, featuring the number 88, was deemed as code for Heil Hitler and, while Lumsden initially said it was in fact a reference to the year of his father’s death, Britain’s MailOnline subsequently tracked down his dad, who at the time was still alive. Other tattoos were subsequently suspected of having Neo-Nazi connections.
Sky History, a joint venture between A+E Networks UK and Sky, was forced to axe eight of the show’s nine episodes. At the time, Big Wheel said it had flagged concerns about the issue to the network during production and that “the making of The Chop followed robust due diligence and duty of care processes from casting through to delivery.”
Having also produced the likes of BBC Two’s Germaine Bloody Greer and Sky’s Terry Venables: A Man Can Dream, Big Wheel is now operating as a popular factual label within Up & Away. Up & Away has a development deal with BBC Studios, giving the distributor a first look on selected projects that it part funds.
An Up & Away statement said: “For the last two years, Up&Away, specializing in feature documentaries and premium factual programmes for the global market, and Big Wheel Film & Television, specializing in talent led factual programmes for the UK market, have operated side by side as independent sister companies.
“A restructure has now brought both companies under one roof and consolidates their respective strengths in the face of a rapidly changing industry. The result – a supercharged Up&Away Film Entertainment Limited, encompassing genre specific labels – is a modern, inventive, and diversified indie with a rich slate of series, specials and feature documentaries in production and development for a wide range of broadcasters and streaming platforms.
“Covid brought significant challenges for many companies. A true indie, Big Wheel weathered the storm. As the industry now emerges from Covid, Up&Away’s carefully-planned acquisition will provide unbroken continuity to Big Wheel projects, support and invest in Big Wheel’s outstanding slate of bluechip factual programmes, and allow Big Wheel to flourish and grow again as a label of Up&Away Film Entertainment.”